Today was a very long and tiring but interesting and fun day. We had two excellent excursions planned back to back that allowed us to imagine that we were primary teachers taking a bus load of children on two very different field trips.
We began our day at Port Arthur, after a 90 minute bus ride from Hobart. Port Arthur was one of the largest penal colonies in Australia from 1830 – 1877 and there was a whole community built around the penitentiary. Most of the convicts sentenced to Port Arthur were from England or Ireland, with a few local repeat offenders also coming there to do time. Today, it is a major tourist attraction but with a wonderful Education Officer, Rachel Chesmer, who set up our whole visit for us. The site today contains over 30 buildings including the penitentiary itself, the Commandant’s house, the hospital, the church, the guards/soldiers quarters, the insane asylum, the maximum security prison which was known as the “Separate Prison”, the dockyards, etc. Offshore, there are two small islands that were also part of the settlement – the Isle of the Dead, where over 1,100 people were buried (including soldiers and prisoners alike) and the Point Puer Boys Prison. This was the very first juvenile prison in the British Empire at the time to house only children (all boys). Here are some shots of the penitentiary and surroundings and then one inside the remains of the prison:
Here is a group shot outside the walls of the hospital
And a close up of all the smiling faces:
All of the cells in the Separate Prison held convicts who were sentenced to solitary confinement, the worst of the punishments. Here’s Nicole and Alyssa standing by the fire that was burning warmly on our cold day: